Read Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes Online


Formerly Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II, the late Ted Hughes (1930-98) is recognized as one of the few contemporary poets whose work has mythic scope and power. And few episodes in postwar literature have the legendary stature of Hughes's romance with, and marriage to, the great American poet Sylvia Plath.The poems in Birthday Letters are addressed (with just two exceFormerly Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II, the late Ted Hughes (1930-98) is recognized as one of the few contemporary poets whose work has mythic scope and power. And few episodes in postwar literature have the legendary stature of Hughes's romance with, and marriage to, the great American poet Sylvia Plath.The poems in Birthday Letters are addressed (with just two exceptions) to Plath, and were written over a period of more than twenty-five years, the first a few years after her suicide in 1963. Some are love letters, others haunted recollections and ruminations. In them, Hughes recalls his and Plath's time together, drawing on the powerful imagery of his work--animal, vegetable, mythological--as well as on Plath's famous verse.Countless books have discussed the subject of this intense relationship from a necessary distance, but this volume--at last--offers us Hughes's own account. Moreover, it is a truly remarkable collection of poems in its own right....

Title : Birthday Letters
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780374525811
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 198 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Birthday Letters Reviews

  • Huda Yahya
    2019-01-29 14:58

    لو أن هيوز أظهر ندمهلو أنه ترك هذا العالم معترفا بذنبهلو أنه أحب سيلفيا حقا‏....‏ماذا..؟هل ستعودهل سينتهي عذابها..؟؟لما نحن القراء مهووسين بقصة سيلفيا مع تيدماذا سيعود بالنفع علينا إن ظللنا نتهمه حيا وميتا‏..؟؟سؤال وجيهوالإجابة ببساطة لأن سيلفيا لم تمتلأنها تسكن كل من قرأها وتنبض بداخلهلأن أنينها لا نزال نسمعه بوضوح مع كل حرف جديد نقرؤهومع كل إعادة قراءة لأبياتها أو ما نثرته على الورقلأن تيد قتلها ‏ولم يعتذر..‏::::::::::::لا أكره تيدأو على الأقل كنت أحاول ألا أفعلولكن بعد قراءة هذا الديوانما الذي علي فعله..؟من على السطح تبدو القصائد عشق متوله في حب سيلفيا ‏بجميع صورها وحالاتهاولكن ما إن تتعمق قليلا ستجد تيد كما هوهو هو نفس الشخص الذي تسبب في انتحارهالا نبرة أسفلا شعور بالذنببل تبرير ودفاع عن النفسمغطى بصور شعرية ‏وإحالات إلى عالم الأساطيرالذي هو فيه خبير ومتمرس::::::::::::‏تمر عشرات من الأعوام وتيد محاط بشبح شيلفيا‏لا يلسعه سياط الندمبل يبحث مرارا عن كيفية استدرار عطف من حولهوالسيطرة على إرثها من الآهات المخنوقةكي يمحي أي صورة سيئة في أعين الناسفلا يزداد في كل مرة يفعلها إلا فشلا‏هذه القصائد كتبها تيد للناس.. للجمهورلا لسيلفيايبدو فيها في حالة إنكار مثيرة للشفقةإنه ليس كتابا لتمجيد سيلفيا‏لا للاعتذاربل للدفاع عن النفس::::::::::::عاش هيوز سنواته الأخيرة في عزلة تكاد تكون شبه كاملةصامتا عن كل اتهام ‏مستغرقا في كتابة سطوره الأخيرة إلى العالم‏والتي فيها ببريء نفسه من كل خطيئةويحيل سيلفيا إلى كائن مسكين يكاد يكون معتوهويتخيل شياطين وعفاريت خطفت حبيبته الصغيرة الضعيفةمن بين يديهولكن الحقيقة أن تيد ظل يكتب هذا الديوان ‏المكون من 88 قصيدة‏على مدار أكثر من ربع قرن ‏وعنونه برسائل عيد الميلاد ‏والذي هو مستمد من عنوان قصيدة أخرى ‏أهدتها بلاث إياه‏وهي :هدية عيد الميلاد ‏والهدية كما يبدو هي الموت‏What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful?It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges?I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is what I want.When I am quiet at my cooking I feel it looking, I feel it thinking'Is this the one I am too appear for,Is this the elect one, the one with black eye-pits and a scar?Measuring the flour, cutting off the surplus,Adhering to rules, to rules, to rules.Is this the one for the annunciation?My god, what a laugh!'But it shimmers, it does not stop, and I think it wants me.I would not mind if it were bones, or a pearl button.I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year.After all I am alive only by accident.I would have killed myself gladly that time any possible way.Now there are these veils, shimmering like curtains,The diaphanous satins of a January windowWhite as babies' bedding and glittering with dead breath. O ivory!It must be a tusk there, a ghost column.Can you not see I do not mind what it is.Can you not give it to me?Do not be ashamed--I do not mind if it is small.Do not be mean, I am ready for enormity.Let us sit down to it, one on either side, admiring the gleam,The glaze, the mirrory variety of it.Let us eat our last supper at it, like a hospital plate.I know why you will not give it to me,You are terrifiedThe world will go up in a shriek, and your head with it,Bossed, brazen, an antique shield,A marvel to your great-grandchildren.Do not be afraid, it is not so.I will only take it and go aside quietly.You will not even hear me opening it, no paper crackle,No falling ribbons, no scream at the end.I do not think you credit me with this discretion.If you only knew how the veils were killing my days.To you they are only transparencies, clear air.But my god, the clouds are like cotton.Armies of them. They are carbon monoxide.Sweetly, sweetly I breathe in,Filling my veins with invisibles, with the millionProbable motes that tick the years off my life.You are silver-suited for the occasion. O adding machine-----Is it impossible for you to let something go and have it go whole?Must you stamp each piece purple,Must you kill what you can?There is one thing I want today, and only you can give it to me.It stands at my window, big as the sky.It breathes from my sheets, the cold dead centerWhere split lives congeal and stiffen to history.Let it not come by the mail, finger by finger.Let it not come by word of mouth, I should be sixtyBy the time the whole of it was delivered, and to numb to use it.Only let down the veil, the veil, the veil.If it were deathI would admire the deep gravity of it, its timeless eyes.I would know you were serious.There would be a nobility then, there would be a birthday.And the knife not carve, but enterPure and clean as the cry of a baby,And the universe slide from my side.::::::::::::كيف يتمكن لشخص يحب امرأة كسيلفيامرهفة الحس.. شاعرة عظيمة ‏‏ تصارع الاكتئاب لسنواتمن أن يكون بهذه القسوة والأنانيةلا يكتفي بتحميلها مسئوليات فوق طاقتهابل يتبجح بمغامراته النسائية التي لا تنتهيثم يترك لها البيت متخليا عن مسئولياته كاملةحتى يتمكن منها الوجع فتنهي حياتها بهذه الطريقة البشعة::::::::::::ولم تتوقف الأهوال عند هذا الحدلقد عاش تيد المأساة مرة تلو المرةفهناك انتحار عشيقته التي ترك سيلفيا لأجلها بالغاز كذلك ‏وقتلها معها ابنتهما شوراثم انتحار نيكولاسابنه من سيلفيافما هو نوع الشخص الذي تحدث له مآس كهذهمرة بعد أخرىفيظل على عناده وعماه الشخصي وإنكاره الرهيب::::::::::::عاش تيد في ظل سيلفيا ولا يزالفبينما تعتبر هذه القصائد أفضل ما كتب على مدار حياتهفي أراء معظم النقادمن الناحية الأدبيةفإنها تبدو باهتة جوار ما تركته بلاث من عبق شعري مشع ‏بألف نور ومضمخ بعطر دموعها...والقصائد كاملة موجودة بترجمة عربيةمن إصدارات وزارة الثقافة بالكويتسلسلة إبداعات عالميةولكنها في غاية السوء في الحقيقةثم وجدت نسخة أخرى فيها بعض القصائدمن الديوان بترجمة الشاعر سركون بولصلم أطلع عليه ولكن أتوقع أن تكون أفضل‏::::::::::::أتمنى أن تكون وجدت السكينة يا سيد تيد في العالم الآخرولكن عذراكل ما أستطعت فعله أن أكتب مراجعة عن ديوانك لا أضمنها حرفا واحدا مما كتبتآهولكن قصيدة سيلفيا وضعتها كاملةمشعة.. بهيةشكرا لك على لا شيء=)مع الناقوس الزجاجي لا تنتهي الحكاية

  • Jamie
    2019-01-28 13:06

    I need to get something off my chest with this one. I'd read Birthday Letters a few years ago, I guess when I was first getting into Plath and was not particularly interested in the warzone of the Plath/Hughes legacy. I also didn't really give much thought to poetry at the time--if it was pretty or vaguely shocking, I'd nod and think, 'Well, look how smart I am, for reading this.' So I think I let Hughes off the hook last time--and I should clarify to say that I don't hate Hughes' poetry; I'm not familiar with a large body of it, but I can safely say, having given them a shot on several occasions, that I love "The Thought-Fox," "Wodwo," "Pike," and a handful of others, including a few from the Crow sequence, though I can't recall the titles at the moment. And I'm hoping to read more of his work--The Hawk in Rain and Crow are both on my list for this year. However, getting through this book this time was a bit of an ordeal. I am genuinely troubled by the violations on display in this text. Yes, I know Hughes wrote them (originally) without the intent of publishing them; I know this was his last book; I know the critics fawned over it (Kakutani says something about it 'clearly coming from a poet's core' or some sentimental shite like that). And I know this is one subjective stance on the Plath/Hughes relationship--from the perspective of one player, in contrast to the many horror tales we've heard of Hughes over the years. I don't think Hughes is some villain--both he and Plath seem similarly awful at moments, and similarly inspired and loving at others, by all accounts. But the portrait painted in this text is one that has a somewhat disturbing undercurrent--Hughes refers to himself almost obsessively as the 'dog' that scampered alongside or behind Plath and her furies. He is, at times, wary, tail-wagging, frightened, dumb, loyal, etc. Meanwhile, the Plath of Birthday Letters is alternately vicious, appropriative, physically violent, tortured, 'fated' for death (and 'fated' as a muse-goddess, something Diane Middlebrook pays a lot of mind to in her 'biography' on their marriage, Her Husband), and a pathetic little girl snared in the trappings of MummyDaddyMummyDaddyDaddyDaddyMummy (this is almost verbatim the ending to one of the poems in this collection). Plath is envisioned as usually helpless, even when furious or taken with the poetic 'spirit.' She is the conduit for God in one of Hughes' poems, which may have been something she said--but constantly, she seems to be the conduit for just about everything, be it the Mummy/Daddy one-two-punch, the muse speaking either to her or to Hughes, the electric jolts of her madness, or for the cruelty Hughes tears down in her poetry. Why should I care? This is, as people like Middlebrook and a number of other recent critics argue, a book that is 'in dialogue' with Plath's biography and poetic legacy. Sure. But more importantly, this is a dialogue in which Plath can never enter, being dead. So 35 years after her death (nearly 50 today), Birthday Letters leaves behind a snapshot of their marriage and their poetry that places Hughes in the supplicant position to his almost oracular, frightening, mad, brilliant (when he gives her that much), wife. I don't intend to run off and chip the 'Hughes' off SP's gravestone, but I wonder what the ethical ramifications of this portrayal are--it seems somehow implicitly violent for Hughes to 'talk back' to his wife in a way that not only enables those who blindly mythologize her, but diminishes her poetry as something neither she nor he could help or stand in the way. And I say he only hints at her 'brilliance' (which he has spoken of, with less trouble, on other occasions), because just as often, he suggests that her poetry is necessarily a nasty outlet for petty rages and gossip. Thus, in "The Rabbit Catcher" (speaking back to Plath's poem of the same name), he revises her vision of male violence--a poem that beautifully links the masculine adventurer's invasive interest in the natural world with sexual, domestic violence against women--to refigure himself as the hapless, lovelorn husband watching Plath cruelly 'snare' people in her poetry. But what Plath's poetry never did--though of course we like to pick moments that seem so transparently autobiographical--was stoop down to trivial gab sessions. If someone appeared in a violent poem--let's take "Daddy" for an easy example--that person was not *that person*; that person became myth, became conflated with a million other myths. "Daddy" may feature Otto Plath's German heritage and ill-fated stubbed-toe, but more importantly, the poem relates a more genuine concern with what Plath took to be a peculiarly feminine interest in domineering men, and in turn, located these issues of male dominance in a more global sphere--thus, the Holocaust imagery, the wonderfully Gothic conclusion. Hughes simply does not do 'confessional' in the way Plath did; Plath's goal was always (to my mind) to take the minute, the private, the domestic, and to weave larger-than-life scenarios from them. Thus, a cut thumb in "Cut" becomes a narrative of colonization and national violence; a jaded hausfrau is a disgruntled Eve, the "agonized side of a green Adam." Hughes, instead, makes Plath--and more horribly, her poetry--a mockery. And if Plath can't speak back, what does this say about the history of women's writing being 'brought down a peg' by the final word of her male counterpart? It frightens me that there's such unabashed praise of a text that--yes, is tender and sometimes beautiful, and clearly is written with great feeling for their marriage, in good times and bad--finally leaves us with the feeling that Plath really *was* just the madwoman in the attic, and that Hughes, unwittingly loyal pup that he was, merely follows along to sand down the rough edges her audience simply 'can't handle'? Not to mention, I don't find the poetry here all that great. There are moments where it's quite lucid, quite stunning--but mostly, it struck me as the sort of stuff you might see in an advanced undergraduate writing workshop. It leaves behind most of what makes Hughes' poetry so distinctively Hughes--with the exception of some of the descriptions of the natural world (I quite liked "The 59th Bear," for example), the collection often reeks of maudlin self-pity, repetitive imagery (which do not build to crescendo, but simmer out), and a usually frustrating speaking-I. I give it 3 stars because, well, I don't think it deserves less--but I do think it needs to be reconsidered on a more political level.Whew. I'm babbling on. Maybe all this will only bother you if you're really into that whole generation of poetry. I get my panties in a twist over things like this--but perhaps it detracts from my enjoyment a bit too much. Any case, just ordered Hughes' Collected Poems, so I'm still willing to give the rest of the work a fair chance.

  • Matt
    2019-01-23 12:47

    Ted Hughes has an uncomfortable place in the room where Sylvia Plath killed herself (and another in the room where his next wife, Assia Wevill, killed herself and their only daughter) -- he was the gas, he was the ovens, or he was the mark to which the the dial was turned. Maybe he was the sealed doors. InBirthday Lettershe places himself in and around that first room, Plath's room. And those places are horrifying, those he occupies and also those spaces he seems to have to leave empty.

  • Rebecca McNutt
    2019-02-19 11:59

    Some of the poetry in this novel is absolutely amazing and gripping, others in my opinion not so much. There does seem to be some, for lack of a better phrase, filler. Either way it's still a good collection with a lot of creativity to it.

  • Pink
    2019-02-17 12:51

    I wanted to hate this. I've read enough by Sylvia Plath to know that I love her. I've read enough about her relationship with Ted Hughes to know that I hate him. What bullshit is that?Of course I know nothing about either of them. I know what's been written of their marriage, it's breakdown and the next chapter of suicides in Ted's life. That tells me nothing. What I read in this collection was rawness of love and loss. His side of their relationship. Was it any truer than the accusations that followed? Who knows. But it seems you can be both pro-Plath and pro-Hughes.Oh and apparently he's quite good at poetry.

  • Roman Clodia
    2019-02-06 18:41

    Given Hughes' notorious reluctance to speak about his volatile marriage to Sylvia Plath, this collection came as a shock when it appeared in 1998. Comprising poems written since Plath's suicide in 1963 this is both intimate and a public dialogue, a way of speaking back to Plath, her poems, and also the world which sometimes turned Hughes into a patriarchal monster of a husband.The best of the poems draw on Plath's own works, re-using her texts, titles, imagery and language to offer Hughes' side of the story: 'Setebos', and 'Night-ride on Ariel' are both particularly vindicatory, blaming everyone else from Plath's mother, to her college patron and even her psychiatrists for her ultimate fate - notably all female. And 'Freedom of Speech' is a macabre and bitter vision of Plath's 60th birthday party.These feel more cathartic than anything else and the deliberate comparisons they draw with Plath's own work, especially the Ariel collection, serve to highlight the brilliance of Plath even at her most vitriolic and self-destructive. So these may not be the best of Hughes' poetry, but as one side of a contentious and ongoing poetic and personal dialogue these are indispensable.

  • Jonathan Terrington
    2019-02-17 17:03

    Ted Hughes wrote Birthday Letters across his life and published it shortly before his death. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath had once been married and divorced before Plath committed suicide. This anthology of poetry is as a result a collection of poems addressing Plath as 'you' like a letter, a response to her Ariel (as seen in the references to 'ariel' and 'bees' in various poems. One problem of criticism of the poetry however, is a criticism that haunts many books unfairly. That this is merely about Plath and Hughes relationship and can only be enjoyed, or has only been successful due to the 'inside glimpse' at a fascinating character of literary fame. However I personally dislike labels for anything and to put this anthology into a box as 'merely about Plath' limits the potency of each poem. I cannot deny that they focus on Plath but that said, as poems they are brilliant on their own.Take the following extract from The Blue Flannel Suit as an example of the simple elegance of Hughes' work."What assessorsWaited to see you justify the costAnd redeem their gamble. What a furnaceOf eyes waited to prove your metal. I watchedThe strange dummy stiffness, the misery,Of your blue flannel suit, its straitjacket, uglyHalf-approximation to your ideaOf the properties you hoped to ease into,And your horror in it. And the tannedAlmost green undertinge of your faceShrunk to its wick, your scar lumpish, your plaitedHead pathetically tiny."I particularly love the virtuosity of the above poem. The phrasing of "what a furnace / Of eyes waited to prove your metal" in this particular poem is particularly fascinating. The imagery is vibrant and evocative while also dissociative. A reader would not normally link furnaces and eyes but in the way Hughes does this it makes you think about the heated stares, the molten emotion of those eyes looking to find fault.Each poem is individual and addresses different elements of daily life with Plath or who Plath was as a woman. Yet each poem fits neatly into the anthology as part of a whole. I have not read any other anthology that maintains such a constant style, as I mentioned while reading there is a unique symmetry in this poetry. I am a fan of various mythologies and references to those mythologies litter Hughes' work here. The Minotaur is only one of those and uses mythology to refer to the breakdown of their marriage: "The bloody end of the skein That unravelled your marriage, Left your children echoing Like tunnels in a labyrinth."That poem speaks for itself, as does this from The Badlands:"Right across AmericaWe went looking for you. LightningHad ripped your clothes offAnd signed your cheekbone. It cameOut of the sun's explosion Over Hiroshima, Nagasaki,As along the ridge of a mountainUnder the earth, and somehowThrough death-row and the Rosenbergs.They took the brunt of it."On the whole while I may have liked several poems more than others (The Badlands, The Blue Flannel Suit, The Moonwalk, The Rabbit Catcher and The Minotaur for example) I found this to be a great whole collection of poetry. There were no obvious flawed poems to say the least. I certainly recommend this as one of the better poetry collections I have read. And I would finish by noting that it certainly does not deserve to be passed off as 'merely talking about Sylvia'. It is a magnificent work of planned and lyrical poetry.

  • Artfulreader
    2019-01-27 13:42

    Warm. Private. Nostalgic.

  • Alexis Hall
    2019-02-09 10:47

    I'm not actually a huge fan of Ted Hughes as a writer.As a human being--whose life and misdeeds are basically publicly property--I have no comment.I like this, I'm almost afraid to say, because it is ugly. Self-justifying and painful and tender and unpleasant. An raw mixture of unspeakable things.

  • Monika
    2019-02-05 13:47

    Awful person, beautiful poetry.

  • Tom Bensley
    2019-02-04 12:44

    My last review for a book of poetry (Plath's Ariel) was only a few lines long. Perhaps it was because I was tired, I'd just written another review or, the more plausible, I was scared of reviewing poetry. Poetry is not something you casually bring up with your mates after a few beers or during a penniless poker game because chances are that they couldn't care less. Or, you just don't want to sound like a fool. My reason was the latter. I was convinced that to review poetry one is required to have a fancy vocabulary and mention lots of literary terms you can't even imagine the poets themselves understanding. It's a real shame poetry has such an exclusive reputation, because that goes against all the reasons poetry exists. Poetry is written to engage the reader's feelings and cause them to be swept up in words that were born to be put next to each other. The sentence rhythms, rhymes and repition all work to bring the metaphoric imagery away from the page to be interpreted by each individual reader. It's the most free form of reading (possibly of writing too, but that's debatable) and yet it only seems to cater to a few. People just don't know how to have fun with poetry. Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters isn't necessarily a fun read, but it is powerful. The relationship between he and Plath is complicated, long and tragic. I guess this is much like any relationship, but here it's being told by a poet, so shut up and listen. Hughes describes the emotional turmoil that Plath suffers while he is like a bystander, calling out a few words of advice that get drowned out by the shouts of the players in and around Plath's own head.Many readers like to pick a side when looking at each poet, choosing who the victim was and whther Plath killed herself because of Hughes. If you're seeking some kind of answer, BL is not the place to look for it. What you are given is a heart-wrenchig, at times eerily cold and breathtaking account of love and all its struggles.

  • Zoë
    2019-02-17 15:03

    "A new soul, still not understanding, Thinking it is still your honeymoon In the happy world, with your whole life waiting, Happy, and all your poems still to be found." In Birthday Letters Ted Hughes offers 88 responses to Sylvia Plath in chronological order, beginning when he first met her, following her 1963 suicide and the years after as he raised their two children amidst the legend his wife left behind following her early death. Although I knew both Plath and Hughes were poets, I had never managed to read any of his writing despite having loved Plath's poetry since I was a young teenager. I began Birthday Letters with both a lot of resentment towards Hughes for, among many things, destroying the diaries of Plath's final years. However I was also curious about a book Hughes published after thirty years of silence on Plath's suicide, as well as the insight it might offer into their tumultuous relationship.Most of the poems are well written, articulate and precise description, careful word choice. Birthday Letters is hard to fault from a linguistic standpoint- it is when it comes to the emotional connection I felt lacking. Considering the premise of the book, this is literally a book of poems written to a wife who killed herself, they felt distanced and cold. The top layer of beauty was there, but underneath many of them lacked the intensity of feeling I expected and wanted from the book. This is not universally true of course, there are gems of poems with sharp glittering edges which slice through the celebrity and several decades worth of rumours to tell the reader what life for Ted and Sylvia was really like. In one of my favourites, "18 Rugby Street" he writes: "In the roar of soul your scar told me- Like its secret name or its password- How you had tried to kill yourself. And I heard Without ceasing for a moment to kiss you As if a sober star had whispered it Above the revolving, rumbling city: stay clear."Unfortunately whether or not it was the intent, there is also a lot of blame laid on Sylvia, a woman who apparently hated England, was fated for death, vicious and was ruled by her relationship with her father. Although I am appreciative of Hughes' honesty and I recognize the fact that this is simply one side of an awfully complex story, but the fact is that his tone often made me dislike him even more. Perhaps this dislike contributed to my inability to read more than a few poems at a time, but when I compare Birthday Letters to Ariel (which I have devoured multiple times) I find it even more lacking. Ultimately I found Birthday Letters valuable for the undeniable insight into the complex Ted/Sylvia dynamic it provides, as well as several truly lucid beautiful pieces but its inconsistency and its tone of judgment left me wanting for the powerful emotional connection that defines good poetry for me. ***

  • Laura
    2019-01-31 18:55

    I read this alongside the Feinstein biography of Hughes, which was illuminating. i'd recommend doing the same as it helps place the locations and events that inspired the poetry. The collection is raw in places and reflective in others, frequently nail-on-the-head brilliant. He's a poet who teaches that the big fancy words aren't what's always needed ('wet shops' - God, can you think of a better description of Yorkshire? - 'the canteen clutter of the British restaurant'- this is pre-coffee shop time!) but nevertheless his writing makes the reader really FEEL. My favourites were Suttee ('it's the only thing I want'), A Short Film (a photograph is taken - not intended to rend or hurt. Not intended as a fuse or a weapon), Inscription, Totem, Dreamers (about meeting Assia), Robbing Myself ('you never knew how I listened to our absence')....I could go on. But I'll leave it there.

  • James Murphy
    2019-01-25 10:45

    This was a reread. I've read a lot of Hughes in the 10 years since I first read it, his poetic memoir of his and Plath's life together. Enjoyed it more, I think, saw more in it, being 10 years improved as a reader. Some of these poems are beautiful. Some are powerful. One or two are elegant. Many of them see their relationship in cosmic terms, a treatment I like a lot. Toward the end they spiral into the surreal as if they follow the arc of her madness. Like everyone else I was gobsmacked by Ariel, the poems she wrote during her last fall and winter. But all the years since we've been reading Hughes and now recognize his talent as vaulting, cathedral-sized. Birthday Letters is some of his best work.Rereading in conjunction with the Jonathan Bate biography of Hughes.

  • Courtney Kellner
    2019-01-21 10:55

    The freezing soilOf the garden, as I clawed it.All around me that midnight'sGiant clock of frost. And somewhereInside it, wanting to feel nothing,A pulse of fever. SomewhereInside that numbness of the earthOur future trying to happen.I look up - as if to meet your voiceWith all its urgent futureThat has burst in on me. Then look backAt the book of the printed words.You are ten years dead. It is only a story.

  • David Schaafsma
    2019-02-17 12:44

    I read this because I am teaching a postwar American fiction class this spring and we are reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (and some of her poetry) for the class. I hadn't wanted to read it so much, I hadn't wanted to revisit my anguished feelings about her life and poetry prior to her suicide, but I had given the enrolled students a chance to choose novels from this period, and some of the class wanted to read it, so I added it. Then, I recalled never having read this book by Ted Hughes, her former husband and equally famous poet. Hughes is a fabulous poet who has been vilified to this day for being partly responsible for her suicide, as he was having an affair when they were married (and knew she was suicidal when they were married), divorced her… and then, to add fuel to this particular fire, the woman who he had had an affair with also killed herself and their son… and then later, Plath's and Hughes' son committed suicide. So you can' very well ignore all this, and it might be best to read all the biographies attending to all this mess, but I haven't done that. I just read the poems and skimmed a few dozen of my fellow Goodreads reviewer's reviews, and my assessment is that Hughes is a terrific poet and these poems (which he began writing after she died and wrote until his death in this, his last book, poems we are told he had never intended to publish, until he finally chose to…), written as "letters" to his ex-wife, are wonderful, brilliant. Some see them as self-serving, as a character assassination, as a justification for his leaving her and as a castigation of her madness and suicide and suicidal poetry, and while I can see that, my reading of these poems is that they are, as poems, amazing, and as a kind of biographical exercise (flawed as they all are in some respects?) amazing, moving, and ultimately loving, his coming to terms with what she was to him. There are some that do seem more "self serving" such as "Rabbit Catchers" but you know, it and other places such as this seem just searingly honest and self revealing and anguished and not whiningly self justifying. Maybe if I read more of the biographies I might fault him more as a man, but the poetry seems brilliant to me, poem for poem, attempt after attempt to understand in one of the only ways he knows how, through the writing of poems. Do you need to have read Plath to appreciate it? Well, he is in dialogue with many of her poems, and even if you read this book without revisiting the poems, you will (as I will) read or re-read her poems (and maybe life, too), in part through his poems. Maybe, if you hate Hughes as some kind of murderer (and I don't, I don't blame him for her death, not based on what I know, anyway), you will see this as his getting the last word, but I don't read it this way. It's great art, great literature, and sometimes such work is accomplished by imperfect human beings, even assholes, but for me, I don't know about him, but his poetry in this (and in other volumes), is amazing.

  • Amy
    2019-02-14 14:51

    Ugh, what a chore this was to get through. I've read random Hughes poems before and have liked them, so I was surprised and disappointed that I did not like this collection--at all. Where to begin? Maybe with "You had a fever. You had a real ailment." This was the condescending tone that Hughes employed throughout many of his poems. I am sure he had a very complicated relationship with Plath, and being involved with someone with mental illness is very challenging (and I can imagine the anger I'd feel for a loved one who committed suicide), but the poems here come off as so incredibly biased that it is frustrating and gross. He writes of her physical appearance repeatedly, her Americanness, her nerves, her Daddy, her death wish. "Now, I see, I saw, sitting, the lonely/ Girl who was going to die." Okay. But I could write a poem about those things regarding Plath, too. Because I don't know her--it is shallow. As her former husband, I would expect a bit more, especially in 200 pages. Where was her humanity? Where was his? The most I got from him was "If I had grasped that whatever comes with a fox/ Is what tests a marriage and proves it is a marriage--/ I would not have failed the test. Would you have failed it?/ But I failed. Our marriage had failed." Bleck. I guess I just don't think this thing was especially moving or anything I think poetry is supposed to be--inventive, playful, honest.I did like the poems "The 59th Bear," "Fate Playing," and "A Picture of Otto," and: "In my position, the right witchdoctor/ Might have caught you in flight with his bare hands,/ Tossed you, cooling, one hand to the other,/ Godless, happy, quieted.// I managed/ A wisp of your hair, your ring, your watch, your nightgown.""You wanted to study/ Your stars--the guards/ of your prison yard""You kept being overwhelmed/ By the misery of the place, like a nausea.""A land with maybe one idea--snake.""'This is evil,'/ you said. "This is real evil.'/ Whatever it was, the whole landscape wore it/ Like a plated mask. 'What is it?'/ I kept saying. 'What is it?'/ As if it might force the whatever/ To materialize, maybe standing by our care,/ Maybe some old Indian.// 'Maybe it's the earth,'/ You said. 'Or maybe it's ourselves./ This emptiness is sucking something out of us./ Here where there's only death, maybe our life/ Is terrifying. Maybe it's the life/ In us/ Frightening the earth, and frightening us.'""A rainy wedding picture/ On a foreign grave, among lilies--/ And just beneath it, unseen, the real bones/ Still undergoing everything.""You'd caught something./ ... Those terrible, hypersensitive/ Fingers of your verse closed round it and/ Felt it alive. The poems, like smoking entrails,/ Came soft into your hands.""It darkened a darkness darker.""In the pit of red/ You hid from the bone-clinic whiteness.// But the jewel you lost was blue."

  • R.
    2019-01-31 16:46

    Picked this up at the library after viewing the 2003 biopic Sylvia starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig as Literature Kingdom's second-best star-crossed angel-handed demon-scratched lovers. Very intriguing how again and again Hughes fetishizes Plath's apple-pie-eating, horseback-riding blonde-tall-muttmix Americaness as some sort of alluring alien Otherness: we in the New World might as well be stepping down from a hovering silvership when we (she, really, she, pretty Plutonian Plath) visit(ed) The Continent (Fulbright scholarship). And? And the descriptions of the American landscape are almost Martian - Hughes' frantic nightmare of Yellowstone Park is, y'know, ha: Edgar Rice Burroughsian man-vs-beast. Stunning, stuff, though, this chap's chapbook. ASR bookmark review: With rich imagery and symbolic clarity Hughes explores and redefines the historical contours of his marriage to Bell Jar author Sylvia Plath. Readers seeking to enjoy just a few of these poems should consider "Ouija" (pg. 53), "The 59th Bear" (pg. 89) and "The Rabbit Catcher" (pg. 144). [821.914 HUG] Prize selection: Knitted Afghan

  • Ygraine
    2019-02-06 19:04

    maybe one day i will revisit these poems with a more comprehensive biographical knowledge. maybe one day i will join the mythological dots to form a constellation of further meaning that i cannot, at this moment, with my fragmented and disjointed understanding fully discern. maybe one day i will approach these poems as things to be understood, rather than experienced. but not this time, my first time reading them. i have gathered only impressions, brief glimpses of memory, resonating with guilt and sadness and feverish intensity, patterns and images of myth and superstition woven into human life.

  • Rachel Louise Atkin
    2019-01-26 12:10

    2.5 stars. Good but not my kinda poetry.

  • Elli (The Bibliophile)
    2019-01-22 14:51

    Ted Hughes is definitely now one of my favourite poets and I look forward to reading more of his work! I'm sure a lot of these poems flew right over my head but I look forward to retreading this collection and learning more about his life!

  • Yona Yurwit
    2019-02-06 16:08

    I feel like Plath has become a becon for many women writers, and Hughes is cast as the villain in her life, the man holding the knife. This collection finally gives readers access to his perspective. Through his lens, we see Plath's unpredictability, self-loathing, and the pressure she put on him: he was her lightning rod. In particular, I loved his verson of the Rabbit Catcher, as that is my favorite of Plath's poems, and his take on it brings the story to fascinating new light. I enjoyed the way Hughes borrowed some of Plath's imagery, but I liked his own even more. That said, this is a difficult volume to get through: there's not exactly a whole lot of happy. I'd been hoping for a little more happy, because I know they did love each other for a reason and I wanted a reminder of that, but at the same time I understand the reason for the emotions in these poems and I don't criticize that. Perhaps it's the pace I read these poems, one right after another, but many of them did run together for me into one congealed blob of she-died-chasing-her-daddy-and-I-feel-guilty-for-not-knowing-how-to-stop-her. Hughes also favors longer poems, and it cna be difficult to bear through three pages of sustained pain. Others, such as The Shot and The Dogs are Chewing on Your Mother's Body are crisp and stricking in my mind. Hughes was poet laureate for a reason--he's good. I enjoyed Birthday Letters, and it made me want to explore his other poems.

  • إيناس
    2019-02-11 11:07

    وقعت في مأزقٍ حقيقي عندما هممت بكتابة مراجعةٍ لهذا الكتاب.أكنت سأقيمه أدبيًا وحسب..؟ حسنًا لعله من أجود ما قرأت في الشعر المترجم -حد أن الترجمة الرديئة نفسها لم تستطع إخفاء جماله- قصائدٌ تنم عن ثقافةٍ واسعة ومقدرةٍ شعرية ليس لي إلا أن أقف أمامها متعجبة..فقد ظهرت وأذهلت رغم حاجز الترجمة الأول وحاجز ردائتها الثاني..لكن...الشعر أكثر بكثيرٍ من مجرد اللغة والتراكيب..الشعر عاطفة وعاطفةٌ صادقة قبل كل شيء. واللغة محض أداةٍ لإيصال كل هذا..ولذلك فجودة الأداة وحدها لن تكفي أبدًا مادامت العاطفة أولًا وأخيرًا قاصرةً ومخادعة..لست إلا قارئةً لتيد هيوز..أني أقرأ له وتسع عشرة عامًا تفصل بين وفاته وقرائتي هذه..لست أعرف عنه إلا سيرةً ذاتيةً قصيرة بل وأقرأ شعره مترجمًا واضعةً بذلك مسافةً شاسعة أخرى بيني وبين ما يرغب بقوله..لذلك فعدم وصوله لي ليس مستغربًا..ولكن وصوله بشعًا، يخلق في النفس شعورًا بزيف كل مايدعيه..فذلك يدعوا للتساؤل..قاومت قراءة أي مراجعةٍ للديوان قبل أن أنهيه، حاولت جاهدةً أن أضع محبتي العظيمة لسيلفيا جانبًا وأنا أقرأ..لكن ذلك لم يغير أي شيء.. هيوز كتب هذه الرسائل لنفسه، كي يظهر لذاته أنه بريءُ من شعور الذنب -والذي أخاله يدعي معظمه- تجاه سيلفيا قبل أن يكتبها للناس أو لقرائه..وقبل أن يدعي أنه كتبها لأجل سيلفيا..

  • K Gomez
    2019-02-08 12:48

    I noticed that my understanding of these poems is far better seven years after I first read them. I felt less like I needed to 'study' them than I once did. The rawness of the emotion and the sometimes startlingly clear biographical references make these very important poems. The best poems in this collection are, in my opinion: 'The Shot', 'Fullbright Scholars', 'Freedom of Speech', 'Isis', 'Being Christ-like', 'Epiphany', 'Setebos', 'The Tender Place', and 'Telos'. There is a beautiful line in 'Fidelity': "Everything that was not you was blind-spot". I found this very touching.Perhaps this is not an ideal introduction to Hughes' work; it does not provide anything approaching an overview. However, it IS an incredibly important poetic text, especially, in my view, if one reads it after Plath's 'Ariel'. Usually, I would be hesitant to connect the work of any one artist to that of another, but with these incredibly personal poems it is appropriate.Definitely a long-term favourite for me, although often quite bleak!

  • Karlo Mikhail
    2019-02-17 16:56

    'Drawing calmed you. Your poker infernal pen / Was like a branding iron. Objects / Suffered into their new presence, tortured / Into final position.' I like two or three of the more than eighty poems here. But in general I find Ted Hughes an abominable figure and this aestheticized denigration of Sylvia Plath distasteful. For instance: 'What I remember / Is thinking: She'll do something crazy. And I ripped / the door open and jumped in beside you.' Most unfortunate is the fact that Plath can no longer speak for her side, having committed suicide decades after this collection's publication.

  • Rachel
    2019-01-26 16:00

    I know a lot about Plath. Like many women, I discovered her as a teenager. "The Bell Jar" was on a required summer reading list for my high school, and I loved it at the time. I started reading her poetry, then her unabridged journals, then the published collection of her letters to her mother, the collection of essays and short fiction Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose and Diary Excerpts, then all the biographies I could find. Even the verse fictionalization of her life, Wintering : A Novel of Sylvia Plath. As I got older, I wanted to know more about her process: how exactly did she write? What were her goals? Who informed and influenced her writing and how? What, finally, freed her into the wild throb of her last poetry? I should note here that I don't side with the Hughes-haters. I don't think he killed her. I think it was a perfect storm of factors that led her to take her life: her own mental illness, inadequately treated; the coldest winter in living memory; caring for two young children; the fevers and illnesses of that winter; Hughes' infidelity and what it did to her sense of self; the divorce; her aging; and maybe other factors no one knows about. I don't blame Hughes for destroying her last journals, but it's a shame we'll never know what they held. Then again, that's nothing owed to those of us who love Plath's work. Enough of her life has been flayed for public consumption.Birthday Letters is Hughes' dialogue with Plath's work, with her life, with their marriage, and with her death. The poems in the beginning are perhaps my favorite, because they highlight her vivacity and what he loved about her in their initial infatuation. Most of the poems in the book deal with her life only in the shadow of her death and her father, which make for good writing, but which hardly encapsulate the entirety of her. I was disturbed by Hughes' repeated theme of godliness - how she made him a god in place of her father, how her feelings of her father fused with her feelings for Hughes. But then, he was also a dog following her, bewildered by her but enthralled. I also found unsettling the somewhat pat implication that Plath's father dragged her down into the grave ultimately. Some of the poems I enjoyed the most were the ones that appear to be "true" versions of memories she wrote about: "The 59th Bear," for example. I also liked the ones where he is remembering things that she seemed to have forgotten. Hughes lost me with a lot of his references to mythology. I have not read many of his poems, but have found what I have read to be earthy, visceral, masculine, sometimes esoteric. I know he was into the occult, astrology, and obviously had a vast knowledge of mythology of all kinds. But I don't, so he lost me with a lot of stuff. Particularly awful was his explanation in "St. Botolph's" of the astrological underpinnings of the infamous lit mag party where the kiss and the bite occurred. The other poems in which mythology figured heavily are too numerous to name, but I know a lot of that stuff went over my head, so I felt less interested in those poems where he took an incident to a grand, cosmic, mythological scale.My favorite poem of the book was actually "The Lodger," where Hughes addresses his worries that he had a heart problem that would kill him, against the backdrop of his gardening in Devon. It is the closest, perhaps accidentally, that he probably comes to seeming to understand what it might have been like to be Plath on her darker days:"(...)StrangeTo be lying on my bedContemplating my heart as it knocked me to pieces,And yet my heart was me. I was my heart.My heart, that had always sung me throughMy frenzies of exertion. How could it fail me?I carried it everywhere with me, a dying child,Weighing at my chest. A sudden spikeUnder my left shoulder-blade.Or a sword - horrible images of the thin bladePushed down vertically beside my neckInside the clavicle. Or a gnawingAt my ribs, from the inside. WorstThe unpredictable faintness - instant gear-slipFrom infinite energy to ghostly nothing.The drive jolted into neutral, and my motorRacing uselessly. How many times a day? Hypochondria walked, holding my armLike a nurse, her fingers over my pulse. Well, I was going to die."Three and a half stars, because some of this was simply inaccessible to me. That said, I read these quickly and without companion volumes like Hughes' other poetry, or Plath's journals and poems and fiction and essays. I am sure that a closer read would enrich my understanding, and having these other works would similarly enrich my reading of this collection. Somehow, though, these poems also fall flat in that I don't see a lot of self-examination on the part of Hughes, just a fair bit of retelling of the near-mythological events in their marriage from a fairly neutral standpoint, and the blaming of quite supernatural forces for his wife's illness and death. Somehow he makes her less a person than an object acted-upon, but not by him - by vengeful gods, by spirits, by her own childhood, by the cosmos.

  • Sarah
    2019-02-15 14:04

    I really liked about 80% of these poems. The other 20% just didn't interest me, perhaps because they were so specific that I couldn't grasp Hughes' intent? I loved the way in which Hughes used this book as sort of a good-bye to Sylvia. Though everybody has their theories about the reason behind her suicide, and no one can necessarily say Ted was a good husband, I have to admit that I found a good handful of the poems quite romantic. They were tragic, yes, but I do think, despite Ted's screwed up ways, he genuinely loved Sylvia. But she was a bit too screwed up for her own good, too.Unfortunately, they were a case of two very gifted people who should've never been together. Doomed lovers, I suppose. Their story is fascinating, and it was especially fascinating to read from Ted's point of view after having only heard Sylvia's angry/bitter account. Infidelity is horrible, but death and loss is worse. What a troubled soul Sylvia was...

  • Willy Schuyesmans
    2019-01-29 17:50

    Intrigerend poëtisch getuigenis van Hughes over zijn relatie met Plath. Na haar zelfmoord had hij 35 jaar gezwegen en zich ook niet willen verdedigen tegen de vele publicaties - vooral vanuit feministische hoek - waarin Plath een slachtoffer werd genoemd van de 'onmens' Hughes. Deze uitgebreide bundel, verschenen in 1998, toont een heel andere Hughes die misschien wel fouten heeft gemaakt, maar heel veel van haar heeft gehouden en die met bovenmenselijk geduld geprobeerd heeft haar (psychiatrische) angsten, haar grillen, haar woedeaanvallen en haar onverwerkte rouw over haar vader het hoofd te bieden.Na het lezen van Jij zegt het van Connie Palmen is deze bundel - waaruit Palmen uitgebreid geput heeft voor haar roman - een echte aanrader.

  • Evelyn
    2019-02-04 18:43

    I'm sure that many Plath fans will have read Birthday Letters and wished that they could have been a fly on the wall of Sylvia and Ted's marriage. This collection of reflective and emotionally charged poetry will be the closest any of us will come to gaining such a private insight. Although it's painfully clear in these works that Hughes loved Plath dearly, there's also an uneasy tone of sadness and judgement which made some of the poems especially difficult to read. Birthday Letters is a book that I'm glad I spent the time reading but not something I would choose to read again.

  • Michael Ransom
    2019-02-15 18:47

    Ted Hughes can do no wrong, poetically speaking, in my mind. However I only gave 4 stars instead of the 5 I usually give to all his works, because I feel these poems don't quite match up to the lyrical intensity of his wildlife focused poems of either his youth (Lupercal, Crow) or his older, wiser age (Wolfwatching). These poems are remembrances of his former life (many if not all with S Plath) and as such they can't really steer clear of sentimentality because that's the whole point. Nonetheless the upside is that they reveal his own perspective on that time and in that sense, they are extremely engaging and enjoyable.